TOP-FIVE FOR NO. 5
Starting Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in 19th, Kasey Kahne spent much of the afternoon working to move forward.
And late in the event’s final segment, the hard work paid off when he re-entered the top 10.
As the event went to overtime, Kahne had raced his way inside the top five and described what it’s like in the closing moments of a restrictor plate race.
“Just trying to keep the car behind you, trying to keep your momentum and do whatever you can,” he said. “We were trying hard, I just couldn’t push the car in front of me, so we weren’t really going as far as we wanted to go. But it was still a great run for our UniFirst team. Thanks to the guys, it was a brand-new car and it was a good, solid top-five. We ran up there throughout the last half of the race and that was pretty good.”
JOHNSON TURNS IN A TOP-10
Like Kahne, Jimmie Johnson took the restart in overtime from inside the top five. But the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS found himself in a heated battle to hold on to the position.
“I could have defended the middle better off of (Turn) 2,” Johnson recalled. “You just don’t know where they are going to go and you are busy looking in mirrors and out the windshield and I’m trying to see where the leader is and all that kind of stuff.”
He took the checkered flag in eighth for his third top-10 finish in the past four races.
“Just very proud of this race team,” he said. “We had a very solid race car all day long. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, everybody on this Lowe’s car and just great teammates to work with out there. Great Chevys to work with and we finished a plate race and I don’t even think there is a scratch on this thing. I mean, that is like a double victory even though we finished eighth.”
With 20 laps to go, Chase Elliott was chasing down the leader from the runner-up position when contact by AJ Allmendinger from behind sent the No. 24 Hooters Chevrolet SS toward the wall, causing a multiple-car incident and ultimately a red flag to be displayed.
While the incident ended Elliott’s day prematurely, he was happy with how his car performed all afternoon, and didn’t blame Allmendinger.
“He just apologized,” Elliott said. “I don’t know that it was really his fault, per se. He had a big run and he kind of got to my bumper and just happened to be in a bad spot coming up off the corner and was skewed a little bit to my left rear. And when that happens, it just unloads these cars too much.”
Just five laps after Elliott’s incident, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running third when a loose wheel caused him to make an unscheduled pit stop.
“We were lucky to get to pit road and get it changed -- the left rear tire came loose,” he explained. “We didn’t change it on the last stop but the glue build-up on the stud didn’t allow them to get the tire tight and it just kind of worked its way loose. We only had one nut tight when we come down pit road. It was real close to coming off.
“I hated it because we were right there in good position to get a great finish, if not win the race, and I had to bail out. That was a hard decision to make. But, knowing what I know now when we come down pit road and they saw the tire, I’m glad I did because it wouldn’t have made it another lap or two.”
Earnhardt ultimately finished 22nd after his lane did not get a good push during the overtime restart. Elliott was scored 30th.